Establishing and Introducing a Strong Academic Argument
Although it seems that argumentation sometimes plays second fiddle to other aspects of scholarly prose, a carefully constructed argument is as essential to a good academic or scientific article as effective methodology and compelling evidence are. The argument of a scholarly paper encompasses all other aspects of the paper and also allows the author to share thoughts as original and engaging as the research and results from which the argument has grown. Although the argument of an article can only be finally determined after the research has been done and the evidence collected, it generally begins as the seed of that research, develops slowly as the work progresses and tends to influence the questions that are asked as well as the ways in which they are answered. What a study and its results mean and why that meaning is important should be considered as seriously as methodology and results are when planning a successful paper. If you think your research worth writing about, then presumably you have a number of thoughts about it that are also worth sharing, and wherever these thoughts began or however they have grown, for the purposes of an academic or scientific article they need to be developed into a sustained, logical argument that both focuses closely on the particular research and provides a larger intellectual or scientific context in which to consider it.

Most scholars will have encountered the basics of academic and scientific argumentation relatively early in their education, and most journals will require sections that highlight the argument of a paper, so it may seem redundant to repeat the basics. However, it can at times be notoriously tricky to incorporate these basics when reporting the complexities of advanced research, so recalling them and their purposes can be helpful. In brief, a basic scholarly argument begins with introducing the topic, problem or phenomenon the paper investigates, explaining the significance of that topic, stating the aims and objectives of the research and presenting any research questions or hypotheses that have been formulated. Appropriate background and contextual information should be provided, and what has been achieved in previous trials and studies should be outlined, as should existing theories relevant to the research. Much of this can be done briefly, and you need not review every publication on the topic or consider every current concern – that would be appropriate for a book or thesis; an article is more focussed – but you should say enough to enable your reader to understand your study and its importance, and to show that you are well aware of all the scholarship, resources and approaches necessary to conduct the study successfully. It is also essential to indicate gaps, problems, misconceptions and the like in the research that has already been conducted in the area, and to suggest how your own research aims to fill the gaps, resolve the problems and correct the misconceptions by presenting new ways of perceiving, investigating and understanding the topic, problem or phenomenon on which your article focuses.